Illinois senior center Mike Tisdale won't mind keeping his toes behind the 3-point line. Perhaps the best shooter on the Illini basketball roster, Tisdale developed into a perimeter weapon in an offense loaded with versatility. He reminded everyone of his shooting skills Sunday at Assembly Hall, when he buried eight 3-pointers in a 30-second span in the semifinal and six more in the final round to win the 3-point shooting contest.
Illinois senior center Mike Tisdale won't mind keeping his toes behind the 3-point line.
Perhaps the best shooter on the Illini basketball roster, Tisdale has developed into a perimeter weapon in an offense loaded with versatility. He reminded everyone of his shooting skills Sunday at Assembly Hall, when he buried eight 3-pointers in a 30-second span in the semifinal and six more in the final round to win the 3-point shooting contest.
When the Illini open exhibition play against Division II Lewis on Friday and begin the regular season against Cal-Irvine on Nov. 8, don't be surprised if Tisdale takes a few shots from the 3-point line.
"If I'm open, I'm not afraid to shoot it,'' Tisdale said. "I can make a few here and there. It will be part of the game. It's something I'm able to do. A lot of teams don't guard the big guys out that far.''
The 7-foot-1, 255-pounder has always been skilled offensively, thanks in part to his coaching at Riverton High School. Now that he's added nearly 30 pounds in the offseason, he's more of a presence inside. His old-school hook shot is nearly unstoppable, but Tisdale's shooting range will also create more spacing for the Illini, a dilemma for the defense and another perimeter outlet on the fastbreak.
Tisdale can shoot. Just look at the stats. He led the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (58.5) and ranked second in free-throw percentage (83.9). He was also five for six from the 3-point line.
"He's one of our best 3-point shooters,'' coach Bruce Weber said. "He's got to make those hooks. He's got to get a variety of his game involved. If the threes are there, taken them. If not, make sure you get inside touches.''
With defenses forced to honor his shooting, Tisdale will create driving lanes for Illinois' athletic guards and wings. It may also allow Illinois to play Tisdale more with Meyers Leonard, the athletic 7-foot freshman from Robinson.
It's just another factor for Weber to consider during this year's preseason crash course. Illinois' first goal is to prepare for five games in the season's first 12 days -- including the appearance in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic -- before stepping back for some analysis prior to heading into a stretch that features games against North Carolina and Gonazaga.
"We're lucky we have some experience,'' Weber said. "Hopefully, it will save us. We have to focus on the short stretch to start the season, see where we're at and then regroup from there.''
Illinois hasn't put much emphasis on half-court offense, Weber said, because "it's been the least of my worries. Somewhere, we have to focus on it. Right now, I have to get defense and transition down early.''
Single-game tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Tuesday by phone (866-ILLINI-1), online (fightingillini.com) and at the Assembly Hall box office. Tickets are available for all 18 home games.
FOOTBALL: Before Illinois (4-3 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten) hosts Purdue (4-3, 2-1) in a Big Ten game Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN2), the Illini defense must prepare to face perhaps three Boilermakers quarterbacks, including freshman Sean Robinson, the former Rochester High School star.
Rob Henry started the last three games after the season-ending knee injury to Robert Marve, but he suffered suffered a laceration to his index finger on his throwing hand and had the fingernail was torn off during the 49-0 loss to Ohio State on Saturday. Purdue still had him listed as the starter Monday, despite the nasty injury.
Robinson, the backup since the knee injury to first stringer Robert Marve, played in the last two games. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder threw for 2,368 yards and 31 touchdowns last seasons with only four interceptions for Rochester. The Rockets fell to eventual state champ Metamora 41-40 in a Class 4A playoff semifinal.
Former quarterback turned receiver Justin Siller was dismissed by the school for the 2009-10 school year for violating academic policy, and he returned as a receiver this fall. Siller missed the last three games with a foot sprain. If he's healthy, he would serve as a backup. No matter the quarterback, Illinois worked Monday to stop the Purdue option running scheme adopted following the loss of Marve.
"You can't attack,'' said Illini defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. "In option football, you have to read and react. We went without a football today. Guys have to take responsibility. Our guys looked like the leaves in the parking lot today. We have to focus better on the responsibilities tomorrow.''
ETC.: Illini freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase earned freshman of the week in the Big Ten after throwing two touchdowns passes vs. Indiana. ... The Illinois-Michigan football game on Nov. 6 is one of five considered for the 2:30 p.m. slot. ABC exercised a six-day option, and the game times for that weekend won't likely be known until Sunday or Monday. ... Tickets are $75 for the Coaches vs. Cancer annual event in Covington, Ind. The fundraiser with Weber and Purdue coach Matt Painter will take place at the Beef House on Nov. 3 Dinner is 6:30 p.m., and the event concludes at 9. To order tickets, call 217-356-9076. ... PGA pro Steve Stricker will be honored with the achievement award by the Varsity I group during the Illini-Purdue football game. ... Libero Jennifer Bonilla earned co-freshman of the week in the Big Ten in volleyball after helping league-leading Illinois (17-3, 9-1) to two wins last week. The Illini, ranked No. 6, host No. 15 Michigan on Friday at Huff Hall. The Wolverines handed Illinois its lone conference loss.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.